Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dutch? NO! Danish!

Ida Marie Hansen & Lauritz Svendsen (changed to Swanson
at Ellis Island). This is where the story begins!
I just spent the weekend in Denmark visiting my cousins there but in order to really tell this story, I have to start at the beginning because I find it pretty remarkable!

In 1892, Ida Marie Hansen left the island of Langeland in Denmark and set out for the US leaving behind a portion of her large family- including sisters and brothers. Ida Marie Hansen was my great-grandmother on my dad's side and upon arrival in Omaha, she met my great-grandfather, also from Denmark. Ida Marie and Laurence (his first name was change at Ellis Island too) had many children, including my grandfather, Merrill. That is a common story, really- Scandinavian immigrants settle in the Midwest and buy a farm- they ended up in Western Iowa- and have many children. To me, the remarkable part is that someone in the family managed to continue communicating with the family left in Denmark- now for almost 120 years!  I think this is where my deep love for Garrison Keillor and "A Prairie Home Companion" comes from- he is Norwegian, from Minnesota, and Lutheran- while my family is Danish, from Iowa, and Presbyterian...hilariously parallel!

We're not totally sure who did all this letter writing but we are sure glad they did! Fast forward to the 1970s and that's when the visiting really began- 80 years after the original immigration and long after both of my great-grandparents were dead. My parents took my grandparents to visit Denmark in 1977 and that's where we saw the extent of the connections- there are a lot of relatives on both sides! The Danish side came over to visit the farm in Iowa and now with the ease of international travel, Facebook, and email, we are all able to see each other with relative frequency.

Frode is holding the cutting board made by my grandpa,
Merril in the 1970s. Everyone in the family has one!
So, our current connections get really confusing because our common relative was pretty far back- but if you look at this picture- Frode (on the left) and his brother are actually just my dad's second cousins- their grandmothers were sisters. So, I guess it is not TOO far away.

So, now the connections continue down the generations and Frode & Ida's (far right in the picture) children and grandchildren have been to visit us many times and we have been to visit them a few times too- this is who I stayed with on my last two visits. I know this all sounds very confusing, but I just wanted to provide a little context to this. Basically, I just think it is really cool and not very common that families with immigration more than 100 years ago still manage to keep in touch- although now, with modern communication methods, it sure is a lot easier to stay in touch!
Bent, Lisbeth, Me, Nina Camilla, and Selma, the lab.
We visited Kronborg Palace- which is where Hamlet is set.
So, now the rest of the family that I actually know and see in Denmark (there are tons and tons that I met only once in 1999 and probably more that I don't know!) are Lisbeth, her husband Bent, and their kids Nina Camilla (19) and Terese (16). However, Terese is studying in the US right now outside of Boston so I didn't get to see her this trip. However, she is coming to visit Colorado so I'll see her before her parents do!

We had a great visit with lots of laughs and plenty of Carlsberg beer since Lisbeth works there and gets two large crates free every month! I was really lucky that for most of the trip there was sun- I actually even got sunburned while I was there! This was my first trip to Denmark outside of the summer and so I was nervous what the weather would entail- although after living in rainy, rainy England for 9 months, I shouldn't have been that worried. I am not sure I will ever get over Colorado sun in my whole life- no matter where I live, the weather will always suck compared to Colorado!

Now for some pictures from the trip! Everyone had to work on the weekdays I was there but we packed a lot into the weekend.
View  of the fjord from my cousins' house in Roskilde- about 25
minutes by train from Copenhagen.

For two days, I toured Copenhagen and then on the weekend we went to visit some castles, saw Sweden from across the water, and visited Lisbeth's parents, Frode and Ida. I love Denmark. I must say that I got a little sad that I wasn't moving there instead of Düsseldorf- a large part of that is because I have family there- and I LOVE that there are bike lanes EVERYWHERE and it is realistic part of life that you can ride a bike everywhere and not get run over by a car because drivers actually look for bikes. Although, I believe the bike situation is the same in Germany so that's nice.

Took a tour of the Carlsberg Brewery, where Lisbeth works.
They still deliver beer around Copenhagen with horse-drawn carriages.

Some of the horses at Carlsberg.
They were standing in a medicinal foot treatment and were enormous.

Carlsberg also owns Tuborg and this really reminded me of India so
I had to sit in it. When we rode in a bike rickshaw in India, the driver groaned
from the weight of my friend Lisa and me- that was great for the old self-esteem!
One of the coolest parts about visiting Roskilde, where my cousins live, is that in the fjord there were many Viking ships found sunken in the water. So, they were brought up and reconstructed and Roskilde has a huge Viking Ship Museum and an outdoor center where they build modern versions based on the old designs. It is pretty amazing to think that the Vikings sailed to Canada in a wooden boat! CRAZY!

This large ship was reconstructed and actually sailed to Ireland by a group of
international volunteers!

This is the large ship from above actually on its way to Ireland.
Now imagine sailing in this all the way to NewFoundland. No thank you. 

Viking boats of all sizes have been reconstructed to sail around the fjord.
This was such a beautiful day that I think half the population of the town was outside eating ice cream!

Lisbeth, me, and Nina Camilla at Frederiksborg Castle outside of Copenhagen.
A huge portion was restored with money from Carlsberg so we got free entry- why do beer companies give so many better perks than schools? No fair!!

The castle is from the mid-1500s. So beautiful!

Felix went too. He REALLY likes castles.

Taking my turn as the Queen of Denmark. Not likely I am going to find out that I am related to Danish royalty as pretty much everyone in my family was a farmer for hundreds and hundreds of years!

An elevator for the king! So cool! It was a trap door in the floor!

The main hall inside the castle. Gorgeous!
 I walked around a lot of Copenhagen for two days and think it is such a beautiful city. But, one of my favorite parts of visiting Denmark is that they are the home of Legos! My dad and I went to Legoland in 1999 and it was super cool! This was just a lego store- but they had this really cool thing where you could design your own Lego-guy/girl on a computer and then they had all the parts and you could build it!
This Lego sculpture was taller than me and SUPER cool!
Here are a few more pictures from around Copenhagen.

Nyhavn (New Harbor) is one of the famous sights of Copenhagen.
Apparently it used to be a swarthy sailor area in the past!

The Queen's house in Copenhagen.
You can walk right up to it, unlike at Buckingham Palace.

I'll post the rest of the pictures of Facebook since blogger has decided that I am done posting pictures! Now, I wait three more days and my parents come! I am so excited to see them! We've got a great trip planned and I think we'll have a great time- and a little stress as I will be driving the rental car on the wrong side of the road!!

1 comment:

Bryden Blabbing said...

Wow, Liz - what an amazing history! Your family is so lucky to have this wonderful connection. And I do love all the perks from the brewery - hilarious.